The Results Are In!

It’s hard to believe I’ve reached my deadline, the three months I set myself to discover which expert could tame my kids are up. Time flies when you’re having fun!

It’s been a rollercoaster ride, as those of you following my blog will know.

I started off my challenge by following the advice of 1940’s childcare guru, Dr Spock whose book, Baby and Childcare revolutionised established ideas about raising children. Since I was brought up on the back of his advice, it seemed like a good place to begin. Would the old ways prove best or be outdated?

I found Spock refreshing because unlike so many childcare ‘experts’ he doesn’t talk to his readers as though they don’t know what they’re doing. In fact, under-pinning all his ideas is the belief that as parents we know more than we think we do and we should trust our instincts. This approach gave me the confidence I needed to follow his advice and apply it to my kids, often with successful results.

I liked that rather than giving me step by step recommendations, he provided broad brush concepts which I could interpret for my children as needed. This fits with his philosophy that parents ultimately know best because each child is unique, therefore advice should be tailor-able rather than ‘one size fits all’.

Although this resonates well with me, I can understand why some people might think Spock doesn’t set clear guidelines. In this respect Supernanny is Spock’s modern day antithesis. Her approach is to give well defined bullet point guidelines for parents to follow and unlike Spock, she clearly thinks she, not we, knows best.

In some cases her suggestions worked well, like the Speaking Clock where I had to give the boys a countdown before starting and ending each activity, and also her ideas on establishing boundaries and routines. The trouble is, she makes no allowance for individuality and her advice leaves no room for interpretation. Plus I felt her failure to explore the underlying causes of bad behaviour and her preference to simply impose order, wasn’t particularly helpful.

I also have to admit that I found some of her suggestions a little gimmicky. I can understand that brightly coloureds reward charts and pretty schedules look good on TV, but she uses them so much that they actually become meaningless- we’ve got wallpaper on our fridge-Harry said the other day pointing at all the charts I’d stuck up.

So what’s the answer? Is there a magic button? Was there a clear winner?

I hate to sit on the fence but the truthful answer is that both experts were helpful in different ways. Thanks to Dr Spock I now trust my instincts more and tend to look at the root causes of bad behaviour so I can discipline my children more effectively, and they’ve responded well to that. On the other hand, Supernanny has given me some useful tools to apply to everyday situations. There hasn’t been a magic button but hopefully if I continue to remember the things that have worked well over the last three months, my little monkeys might eventually turn into angels- well a girl can dream can’t she?

Time for You!

Even the title of this section sounded so nice I felt I had to include it here!

Parents who spend quality time together as a couple do a better job raising their children.

It was with great pleasure and in the name of research of course (!) that I dropped the kids of at my parents last Sunday to enjoy a day out with my husband.

Somehow knowing I was going to have the day to myself made me calmer when they acted out in the morning and I was more willing to play with them and forget my chores because I knew I wasn’t going to see them all day.

T and I had a wonderful time and treats we took for granted BC (before children) seemed extra special.

How nice it was to eat grown up food in a real restaurant without having to worry about what the boys might be able to eat. How nice to wander up Marylebone High Street without pushing a buggy (so freeing to be able to dangle my arms by my side and hold a hand bigger than mine). How nice to walk in the Regents Park without lugging a bag full of stale bread for the ducks.

And yes, when we went to pick them up of course they were hyper and difficult but somehow the day T and I had spent together made me more able to deal with them calmly.

Good advice Supernanny, hope my folks will let me try it out again!

Supernanny & Calm Authority

Don’t shout and bark commands at your child or let him know you’re pressed for time. Use a calm authoritative voice.

Clearly she’s never met my children for whom time is an abstract concept that doesn’t apply to them.

Getting ready for school is a nightmare I face every morning. I literally lie awake at night trying to work out how I can get them to eat, dress and wash on time and set my alarm for earlier and earlier in the hope of making things run more smoothly- to no avail.

By 8 o’clock my blood pressure’s normally through the roof and I’m lucky if one them isn’t having a full blown tantrum.

Maybe Supernanny’s right and all I need to do is exude calmness and authority- let’s see.

This Morning

(and in fact every morning this week)

I look at the kitchen clock in desperation as Ben chews his mouthful of cereal for the hundredth time without swallowing. Don’t rush him, stay calm- I think.

Ben, darling, we really need to go upstairs and get dressed or we’ll be late for school- I say as sweetly as possibly.

I’m not finished- he says knocking over his glass of juice.

Alright, I’ll take Harry up and get him started- I say through gritted teeth, moping it up.

No, I need to get dressed first- he shouts.

I manage not to say, then hurry up, and instead say calmly but firmly- I’ll meet you up there, come on, Harry.

Cue blue murder.

Fifteen minutes later, Harry’s dressed and Ben’s finally stopped screaming but his breakfast is still on his plate and being the neurotic mother I am, I’m afraid I can’t do what my husband suggests which is to take Ben’s plate away.

In the end we’re late out the door- again, and although I may have stayed calm on the outside I already feel like I’ve been up all week and it’s only 8.15!

Rewards

Positive attention and praise are the most effective rewards for children. They are immediate and reinforce good behaviour on the spot.

Of course being Supernanny, there’s a suggestion in this section about sticker charts and I have to admit I sigh as I clear a space on the wall to accommodate them since my fridge is now completely covered with her lists and schedules.

The kids however are excited and eagerly colour theirs in.

Can I have a sticker for making my chart look so pretty- says Ben.

This is just the beginning. All day the boys ask me for stickers:

I ate all my ice cream, can I have a sticker- says Harry

I played beautifully with my helicopter, can I have a sticker- says Ben

I stroked the dog, can I have a sticker- says Harry

You get the drift? By the end of the day the charts were meaningless. There were tears when I said they couldn’t have a sticker and it became ridiculous because they thought they should be rewarded for every little thing.

I’ve gone back to telling them when they’ve done something well and kissing them for it and frankly they seem quite happy with that and I’ve been able to take one of Supernanny’s charts down.

Everyone’s a winner!

One Strike & You’re Out!

When the Naughty Step doesn’t work, this approach can show that bad behaviour doesn’t warrant any of your attention at all.

Given my failure with the Naughty Step, I was pleased to see that there might be another method for me to try.

With this technique you don’t give the child a warning, you just remove him from the room saying that his behaviour is unacceptable and he can come back when he’s ready to apologise.

Of course my boys were onto this one quite quickly.

Sorry!- they yelled through the door, the very second I’d removed them only to come back in and repeat the initial offense within a few minutes.

In the end I realised that I’d have to adapt the technique a bit if I were to truly test it.

This time, I told them that what they’d done was wrong and I was putting them outside for two minutes. They banged the door and yelled sorry but I didn’t let them back in until their time was up.

I actually found this nipped bad behaviour in the bud much more effectively since they were out of the room for long enough to break the pattern and it established my authority since I was able to follow through.

The Naughty Step

To many of us I imagine, this is what Supernanny’s all about- The Naughty Step has almost become synonymous with her.

How it Works:

1. Give your child a warning to give him a chance to correct his behaviour

2. If he carries on, give him an ultimatum – ‘if you do that again you’re going on the naughty step’.

3. If he does it again, take him straight to the naughty step and tell him to stay there for ‘a minute for each year of his age’.

4. When you put him on the step you remind him why he’s there.

5. At the end of his time, ask for an apology and for him to tell you what he’s apologising for.

6. When he’s apologised, praise him and move on.

How it Worked For Us:

You see Supernanny taming horrendous problem children on her TV show with this technique but the sad truth is, it really didn’t work for us.

Both boys (when tested) bounced off the naughty step each time I sat them on it, so much so that I think it actually became a game for them.

Go on Harry, get off the step! – said Ben laughing, despite the fact that Harry was being punished for hitting him.

In the end I think it just taught them that I have no real authority since I had no way of actually enforcing the punishment. I much prefer Spock’s idea of creating a direct consequence of bad behaviour which they can learn from.